30 August 2007

Booking through Thursday

Usually, I post my Booking Through Thursday response on Tea Reads, but not everyone who visits me here visits me there. This is such a good question - what do you all think?

There was a widely bruited-about statistic reported
last week, stating that 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book last year. Clearly, we don’t fall into that category, but . . . how many of our friends do? Do you have friends/family who read as much as you do? Or are you the only person you know who has a serious reading habit?

I was not surprised by the statistic. As a librarian for almost thirty years, I have seen how reading habits have changed. Where once, patrons would stagger to the circulation desk with a dozen books to check out, now they have three or four. Where once, we would have to buy a dozen copies of the latest bestseller, now we buy three or four. Perhaps, some of this trend can be attributed to the online booksellers, whose deeply-discounted prices make it more attractive to buy a best-seller than to wait for 3-4 weeks to get it from the library. More likely, people who once were casual readers have become less likely to read for any of a million reasons - I won't bore you with my cynical list of possibilities.

One of the details in the MSN article caught my attention - the notion that women are less likely than men to read biographies . I won't generalize from myself, since I'm a fiend for biographies, especially if they're about literary or intrepid women. (I'm itching to read the new biography of Gertrude Bell, for example.) I will generalize from my women friends, though - they (we) all read history, biographies, science, all manner of nonfiction, and we discuss amongst ourselves.

Another detail - or omission - from the article made me wonder whether the survey included audio books. I've seen discussions and debates on whether audio books count as "reading" - for example, check out this excellent post by Moonfrog and the comments below - and I've been rather surprised by some of the conclusions. For the record, I think that any medium that lets you absorb the author's words qualifies as reading - and I wonder who amongst the scoffers would tell, say, blind people that they aren't reading their "Books on Tape."

So, do my friends and family read as much as I do? Friends, yes, but wouldn't you expect that we'd choose friends whose passions complement our own? In fact, some friends astound me with the number of books they read, especially since they also knit amazing things, create and sustain splendid gardens, raise excellent children, work time-intensive jobs....Would that I had the energy and time-management skills to keep up with them!

(Family - not as much. Alas.)


Bridget said...

I like this post. Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of people today who don't read, and don't even think about whether or not they should. I can't tell you how many people say to me, "Wow, I can't believe you still read books. I haven't read a book in years, it's just not interesting anymore." (Sorta like when Oprah cancelled her book club.)

Our public library branch has a pretty high circulation rate, but it's also in an area where there are a lot of students, and people with young children bringing them to story hours and such. I know other branches are pretty deserted most of the time, according to what a friend who works in one tells me.

KSD said...

Thanks so very much for the hand squeeze. . .

I've noticed a definite drop-off in "pleasure" reading among my students over the years. I know they aren't a representative sample, and that most of their reading is probably of textbooks, but still, the trend has alarmed me for quite some time.

Khadijha Caitlin said...

I will quote David Bowie,
"I'm afraid of Americans"

We're a country on the whole that doesn't read and watches mainly crap on television.
Why am I not surprised America reelected Bush.

Donna Lee said...

I do not "read" as much as I used to but I am an avid downloader of audio files from my local library. I cannot read in a moving vehicle and my mp3 player has saved my sanity. (It used to be books on tape). I love audio books because I am able to knit and listen. I know that those of us who are audiophiles are looked down upon by some but meh, who cares. I taught reading and for some kids the only reading they would do is comic books. Did I encourage it, you bet. But then I slipped in some graphic novels and soon they were reading Dickens and such with no complaints. I love to read and don't know what people who don't read do.

amy said...

Both times we looked at houses, I was astounded by the number of houses with no books in them. Imagine! A house with no books! Our shelves are overflowing, we have books in boxes in the basement, and we are regular library users. Just today, while figuring out which ones to take home, my son said, "There are SO MANY GOOD BOOKS in the library!" We seem to be the opposite of most homes with young kids--a very small kids' DVD/tape collection and a LARGE kids' book collection. I don't know what people who don't read do, either. Zone out in front of the TV, I guess. The trouble I have is keeping up with the reading AND the knitting!

When my first son was a baby, he wouldn't nap alone. I'd nurse him to sleep, and if I tried to escape, he'd wake up. Some days I napped, too, but most of the time I read. I read so many books...he took long naps. :-)

pixie girl said...

I read that article, too. I try to read a fair amount, but time does get away from me. I didn't read half as much as I wanted to over the summer. I'm reading a lot of research, though - that count?

Beck said...

My husband doesn't read books at all - he just doesn't like it. One of my closest friends, like me, reads a lot, but is having trouble getting her eldest daughter (almost 11 yrs old) to read. Unfortunately for me I have little time to read now because of school and work, but I try to keep at least one fiction book going.

Anna said...

I'm a great reader, and I know that I don't read as much as I used too -- part of it is family life (the Bee keeps me busy), and part of it is a lack of interest - lots of newer books seem to be crap.

We live in a book house - we've got book shelves in every room, and books still overflowing onto the floors, but I am constantly surprised by how many people don't have any books. My inlaws haven't got a single bookshelf. My sister's house hasn't got any. My mother's house had two - which she gave to me when she moved.

I blame television.

Melody said...

What a great post! :) And I definitely agree with you about those online booksellers.

My family members and friends don't read as much as I do, but at least I have blogger friends who do! ;)

Happy reading!

BookGal said...

Great post - I'm really thinking much more about the role of audio books in reading and in classroom instruction. I'll follow your links.

Ann said...

I do agree that people are reading less now but not my family. I have been an avid reader & has passed on the habit to my 2 daughters who love read & will read whenever they can find a spare moment. However I have to admit that I am reading less now that I am knitting more but I am trying to read & knit at the same time.

Bonne Marie said...

I ride the bus to work and back everyday in Chicago and it is a great cross-section of the People.

And on many days, many of them have a book in hand, even when the bus is packed. They are standing, reading, turning the page.

I would be so lost without mine! Right now I'm reading "Vanity Fair" and "The Story Chicago May" a biography by Nuala O'Faolain.

Carrie K said...

I can't even imagine not being having a book to read. Heck, I've got a book in my purse at all times (I buy purses based on whether I can fit a book in it, and nowadays, my knitting too). I've even got books in my earthquake preparedness kit. (And no, nothing as helpful as How to Survive In the Former Suburbs That Is Now A Vast Wilderness.)